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100 Most Common Japanese Words

So you’ve decided to learn Japanese. Congratulations!

Japan has one of the most unique and interesting cultures in the world. It’s the home of anime, some of the best chefs in the world, and one of the safest places you can live in. However, it is also one of the most difficult languages you can learn. If you’re up for the challenge, we would recommend that you start with the most common Japanese words. This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised to know the amount of trivial words and phrases you’ll be taught in traditional language classrooms.

As you may understand, learning the most common words that you’ll use in regular conversations will reap a huge benefit. The reason being, you don’t have infinite amount of time to learn every word in the Japanese dictionary. Most of us are busy living our own lives whether that’s focusing on advancing our careers, spending time with family, and other hobbies.

1,000 Most Common Japanese words = 88% of comprehension

There are studies that share some light around this topic as well. Here’s an excerpt around the Spanish language:

Studying the first 1000 most frequently used words in the language will familiarize you with 76.0% of all vocabulary in non-fiction literature, 79.6% of all vocabulary in fiction literature, and 87.8% of vocabulary in oral speech.

Studying the 2000 most frequently used words will familiarize you with 84% of vocabulary in non-fiction, 86.1% of vocabulary in fictional literature, and 92.7% of vocabulary in oral speech.

This may not directly translate to learning the most basic Japanese words, but you can transfer this analogy. Learning the first 1,000 words will help you become familiar with the majority of the language, as they’re the most commonly used. This is similar to the Pareto’s Principle, which states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Learning Japanese or any other language is no different.

100 Most Common List of Japanese Words

With that said, we’ve accumulated a list of the first hundred words in Japanese that you can start learning.

If you want to learn beyond the initial 100 Japanese words today, here they are:
-1,000 most common Japanese words (flash card version)
-5,000 most common Japanese words (memrise)

Basic Greetings in Japanese

English

Japanese

Transliteration

Hello/Good day こんにちは konnichiwa
Hello (on the phone/Skype) もしもし moshi moshi
How are you? おげんきですか? ogenki desu ka?>
I’m good. げんきです genki desu
Long time no see. おしゃしぶりです oshashiburidesu

Polite Phrases

English

Japanese

Transliteration

Please おねがいします onegaishimasu
Thank you so much どうもありがとうございま doumo arigatou gozaimasu
Excuse me すみません sumimasen
I’m sorry ごめんなさい gomennasai
You’re welcome どういたしまして douitashimashite

Japanese Conversation starters

English

Japanese

Transliteration

Are you busy now? いまいそがしいですか? ima isogashii desu ka?
What are you plans this weekend? こんしゅうまつよていがありますか? konshuumatsu yotei ga arimasu ka?
How is your family? かぞくのみなさんわいかがですか? Kazoku no minasan wa ikaga desu ka?
Tell me about yourself じこしょうかいをおねがいします jiko shoukai o onegaishimasu
What do you think? どうおもいますか? dou omoimasu ka?

Important questions in Japanese

English

Japanese

Transliteration

How do you say that in English? それわえいごでなんといいますか? sore wa eigo de nanto iimasu ka?
I don’t understand. わかりません wakarimasen
I forgot わすれました wasuremashita
I don’t know. しりません shirimasen
Can you please say it slowly? もとゆっくりはんして? moto yukkuri hanshite?

Common responses to questions

English

Japanese

Transliteration

Every day まいにち mai nichi
Sometimes じじ jiji
Now いま ima
Later あとで atode
Maybe たぶん tabun

Transition words during conversations

English

Japanese

Transliteration

That’s a good question それはよいしつもんですね Sore wa yoishitsu mondesu ne
Alright だいじょうぶ daijoubu
Wait a moment ちょっとまってください chotto matte kudasai
Don’t worry くよくよするな kuyokuyo suru na
Oops おっとっと ottotto

Conversation Closers

English

Japanese

Transliteration

Thank you for your time おいそがしいところありがとうございました o isogashii tokoro arigatou gozaimashita
see you later じゃあまた jaa mata
see you またね matane
Goodbye さようなら sayounara

Best method to learn the list of Japanese words

To help you accelerate your Japanese learning journey, we’ve got 3 resources to recommend to you today.

Quizlet

Quizlet is a digital quiz tool that allows you to create, organize, and view your own quizzes online. In this case, you’d be better off leveraging the quizzes around learning Japanese words that other people have already created. You’ll find dozens of templates that you can consume.

Memrise

Memrise is a digital flashcard creator where you can find thousands of courses for Japanese, English, Spanish, and dozens of languages. It’s 100% free for anyone to use and offers a simple user interface that makes it easy to learn.

Rype

If you want to work with an online Japanese tutor to help accelerate your speaking ability, then we’d encourage you to check out Rype. We have hundreds of pre-vetted tutors that are ready to teach you Japanese. Best of all, you can do it from the comforts of your own home, at anytime that’s convenient for you.

Next steps

If you’re serious about learning Japanese this year, we recommend you connect with a professional Japanese tutor for 1-on-1 lessons. The immediate feedback you get in addition to a personalized lesson plan will enable you to learn much faster.

With Rype, you get access to the world’s most popular foreign languages including Japanese in your membership.

Start your free trial with Rype, and you can book daily lessons at anytime of the day, any day of the week. We’ve built the entire experience to fit the needs of busy individuals like yourself, and you can even try it out for free!

Or hear why students recommend Rype as the best way to learn Japanese.

We also recommend you check out our other free resources:

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